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New Cook County health board chairman says CEO search could take more than year
Cook County panel's chief sees extended CEO search

Thursday, June 19, 2008
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

The new chairman of a board set up to bring independent oversight to Cook County's beleaguered public health-care system said Wednesday that it could take longer than a year to hire a chief executive officer.That's twice as long as county commissioners gave the board."It's better to take the time to get the one everyone is comfortable with," said Warren Batts, the board's chairman.The 11-member health panel unanimously chose Batts as chairman during its first meeting Wednesday. Batts, 75, has led seven major firms—including Tupperware Corp. and Mead Corp.—and is the former chairman of Children's Memorial Hospital. Batts also said the board could pick an interim CEO for the county health system as soon as its next meeting July 11. Directors discussed "quite a few" potential candidates in a closed session Wednesday, he said.Dr. Robert Simon, appointed by County Board President Todd Stroger as interim chief of the health system, resigned in April.Simon, however, stayed on under a contract that the Stroger administration initially said was worth $6,300 a month for part-time work that involved making key decisions, with Chief Operating Officer David Small handling most day-to-day duties.Stroger's team said Wednesday that it mistakenly provided the wrong information about Simon's pay. Under the six-month contract, Simon earns $14,600 a month as a "transition adviser" to Stroger. The contract calls for Simon to oversee personnel and management decisions, as well as contracts that require commissioners' approval at the Bureau of Health Services.Technically, the Bureau of Health Services was dissolved Wednesday, when Stroger handed off the gavel to Batts, launching the Cook County Health and Hospitals System.Dr. Quentin Young, co-chairman of the Emergency Network to Save Cook County Health Services, said it makes sense for Simon to provide input to the new board, "but it would be disastrous if he retains any control over the governance of that hospital and the rest of the bureau."Tribune reporter Deborah L. Shelton contributed to this report.

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